Last spring I joined with three of my House colleagues from the Beaufort delegation – Shannon Erickson of Beaufort, and Weston Newton and Bill Herbkersman of Bluffton – to introduce three bills aimed at strengthening the integrity and security of our elections here in South Carolina. 

Debate on election reform legislation will continue when we reconvene next month, since the state Senate has its own views on the subject.

One viewpoint where I hope we all can agree is that the security and honesty of our elections is of utmost importance to sustaining our American democracy.

We simply must have complete confidence that those who take the oath of office – whether at the national, state or local level – are the individuals who actually won the election for that office.

Nationwide events over the past several election cycles have unfortunately undercut public faith and confidence in the integrity of election procedures that currently exist. Thankfully, here in South Carolina we have largely avoided some of the problems of neighboring states like Georgia and North Carolina, but we still have vulnerabilities. Our upcoming legislation will address these vulnerabilities with some common-sense changes.

There are three topics in particular addressed in our House bills No. 4620, No. 4621 and No. 4622: Absentee Ballot Security, Voter Roll and Registration Integrity, and Handling of Ballots.

Our overall objective should be to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. In other words, enhanced election security should be balanced with improving access to voters.

Absentee voting. Voter ID is tops on the list. It was pointed out to me that a national survey earlier this year by the Rasmussen Polling Organization revealed 75% of Americans support voter ID laws requiring individuals to show photo ID before voting – including almost 70% of the Black voters polled. This should be mandatory in South Carolina for both in-person and absentee voters. For absentee voters, witness requirements should be strengthened while the number of in-person absentee voting locations should be expanded so that every person who is qualified to vote can vote.

Voter rolls. Our aim here is to make sure rolls are continuously updated to ensure no duplication of voters from one state to another, one county to another or even one precinct to another. There is no reason this cannot be done using technology that now exists. Recent state elections show that problems like this definitely exist. Moreover, databases need to be updated daily to account for deceased voters while county tax records must show that addresses on file are actually residences and not business locations or empty lots.

Handling of ballots. On this topic, I believe we need to reinforce by statute the handling of ballots and the right of election observers/watchers to monitor all election activities.

I stand with the Palmetto Promise Institute’s declaration: “Let us never forget that representative democracy is a sacred trust.  We must make it a priority to safeguard the security and integrity of our voting process.”

Jeff Bradley is the representative for District 123 in the State House of Representatives.